FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady was among four offensive players not spotted at Patriots practice Wednesday afternoon on the lower field behind Gillette Stadium.
Running back Dion Lewis and receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola also were absent from the sweats-and-shells session.
Brady has been nursing a thigh injury since taking a blow against Seattle Nov. 13 and has been managing the injury by taking some practices off — his last one was Nov. 30. The Pro Bowl quarterback was spotted in the locker room prior to practice.
Mitchell, who has been given maintenance days off in the past — he has a history of knee injuries — also was seen in the locker room the last two days, so this was probably just a rest day.
Lewis, who has ramped up his workload in recent games, stayed away because of an illness.
Amendola has been out since suffering a high ankle sprain against the Ravens Dec. 12. The hope is that he’ll return for the postseason.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who has been managing a knee injury and missed last Saturday’s win over the Jets, practiced but was limited.
“I’m doing good,’’ Hightower said before the workout. “Doing my best to get back on the field.’’
Also listed as limited were Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder), Matthew Slater (foot), and Cyrus Jones (knee).
Jimmy Garoppolo remembers the way the Patriots ended the 2015 regular season in Miami, and though he played (and completed his only pass of the season) in that game, it’s not a happy memory.
“It wasn’t the way we wanted to play the game,’’ Garoppolo said of the 20-10 loss. “We fell behind early and you never want to play like that. The [Dolphins] got into and it’s the NFL, everyone’s competitive.’’
The backup quarterback, who has a career-high 502 yards and four touchdown passes this season, said that while that game is in the memory bank, it isn’t used as motivation for what’s ahead.
“It’s in the past,’’ said Garoppolo, who was tearing up the Dolphins in Week 2 (18 of 26, 232 yards, 3 TDs) before exiting with a separated shoulder. “Now we’re playing for home seed, so we have to go out there like it’s any other week.’’
Like most of his teammates, Garoppolo said the concept of resting starters is a foreign one in the New England locker room.
“It’s not even thought about. The coaches never bring it up,’’ he said. “It’s a good thing, though. That’s kind of the culture that’s been built around here. Everybody’s always ready to go, whether it’s the starters or the backups, whoever it might be.’’
James Develin has enjoyed an uptick in playing time since tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a season-ending back injury, and he’s adapting quite well, according to Bill Belichick.
“He loves to play,’’ the coach said with a big smile when asked how his fullback is doing. “Yeah, he’s happy to go in there.’’
Belichick noted how Develin’s contributions go beyond what he provides as a body-slamming lead blocker.
“He’s done a good job for us on the punt team, the kickoff return team, he’s played for us in the kicking game, [he’s] a very dependable player,’’ Belichick said of the 6-foot-3-inch, 255-pounder. “James is strong. He’s not big like a lineman but he’s got very good playing strength for his size. I’d say he’s built to last.’’
Ducking the doctors
Dolphins coach Adam Gase had an interesting response when asked on a conference call about the status of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who sprained his ACL and MCL in Week 14. “I’ve purposefully avoided our doctors. I haven’t asked. I told them, ‘If something changes, let me know,’ ’’ Gase said. “I just know that he’s been working hard to try to get as healthy as he can. I have no idea what our timetable is. Right now, we’re playing it every week [by] saying, ‘Matt [Moore] is our quarterback until somebody tells us different.’ ’’ . . . Gase, who is known as a QB guru, had some complimentary remarks about Brady, who at 39 is a year older than the Dolphins coach. “I was lucky enough to be around a future Hall of Famer [in Peyton Manning in Denver] and when you look back on it, you really appreciate what guys like Tom and Peyton bring to the table, because they’re really league-changing-type players,’’ he said . . . Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, who was limited at practice with a shoulder ailment, was named AFC offensive player of the week after another monster performance against the Bills. Ajayi rushed 32 times for 206 yards in Saturday’s overtime victory in Buffalo. It was his second 200-plus-yard performance against the Bills in 2016 and third overall this year. He is sixth in the NFL with 1,213 rushing yards . . . Dolphins safety Isa Abdul-Quddus will miss the rest of the season after hurting his neck in the Buffalo game. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve when the Dolphins also promoted undrafted rookie free agent safety A.J. Hendy from the practice squad . . . The Patriots tried out linebacker Arthur Brown, a former second-round pick of the Ravens, on Tuesday . . . Belichick fondly remembered Bruce DeHaven, the longtime special teams coach who died from prostate cancer Tuesday at the age of 68. “He’s one of the real good guys,’’ said the coach. “I never worked with him . . . When I came in there were no special teams coaches really to speak of and then he was one of the, I’d say, first wave of lifers kind of at that position.’’
Jim McBride can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.